Is your pet fearful of storms? Here’s how to help.

May 02, 2018

Most of us don’t love storms. Sure, it can be nice to sit on the porch and watch the lightning roll in, but for the most part, these weather hazards are loud, inconvenient and at times, dangerous.

Animals especially don’t enjoy stormy weather, which is why responsible owners need to be aware of the signs of anxiety in their animals, the causes, and most importantly, how to help.

The signs

Signs of anxiousness in dogs are “ears back, tails down, eyes wide, panting, lip-licking and yawning,” said veterinarian and clinical behaviorist Terry Curtis to National Geographic. Dogs who struggle with storms (and other loud situations, like fireworks) have been known to have extreme responses at times, jumping through windows, running away or otherwise putting themselves at risk.

Cats are a bit different. They’re likely to hide, be aggressive when approached, meow or cry excessively, groom compulsively, be lethargic, or even vomit when a storm is approaching. Oftentimes, they sit in one safe place to wait out the storm.

Why storms?

You might notice your pet responding to an oncoming storm before you even begin to feel something in the air. Dogs in particular are sensitive to a drop in atmospheric pressure. Combine that with darkened skies, high wind and the noise of thunder, National Geographic says, it’s no wonder they can freak out.

Another reason for anxiety could be static buildup in fur, according to veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodman. He compares the feeling for long-furred dogs to what it feels like when we humans wear a fuzzy sweater. Just as getting shocked from touching a metal object can be unpleasant for us, it might set a nervous dog over the edge.

How can I help?

Dogs and cats are likely to seek out hiding places when frightened. You might find them curled up in the shower, or in some tight corner of the bathroom. Some vets recommend letting pets hide wherever they feel safest, as long as the location is safe, and blocking out sound with some white noise. It might help to provide a hiding place, like a covered bed or kennel, designed for pets.

Dodman and Curtis both recommend finding a way to help de-static dogs, by either rubbing their coats with a dryer sheet or purchasing an anti-static jacket. Wrapping them up snugly can also comfort them.

In serious cases, prescription medication from a veterinarian could help a pet relax.